Reading Challenges

3 Days, 3 Quotes: Book Tag (Day 1)

I got tagged in this over at Cumuloquoise Blog you can read their posts here.

It was good timing for me as I did not have anything sorted for this week after last weeks illness so here we go with quote number one (they are all Harry Potter lol)…


I nominate

David Prosser

Lucy Williams

C.B Wentworth

Mysteries Of Udolpho · Reading Challenges · Tuesday Reflections

Mysteries Resumed

195What seems like a life time ago I decided to read The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe, my lovely friend MsKatykins intended reading along with me but both of us got distracted by real life.  But from next Tuesday I intend to continue reading and posting my reflection as I go.  I am not going to set strict guidelines on how many chapters a week I will read this time, instead I will read it at my own pace and for pleasure rather than it feeling like a chore and then share my feelings on what I have read that week.  I am sure that will mean some weeks I will have read loads and be gushing about it and others will have struggled through a few pages and be ranting about the style.

If you would like to catch up on the reviews of the chapters we had read before to refresh your memories (I have and had a skim through the opening chapters) then click here for a quick link to the page containing the links for previous reviews.  I am hoping that my recent wanderings round the Abbey ruins in Whitby have fired up my taste for Gothic literature enough to get me through this in time to read Dracula for Halloween.

Book Reviews · Monday Musings · Reading Challenges

Audio/Book Review – Moby Dick by Herman Melville


There are some books which seem destined to sit forever on the to be read pile, occasionally picked up the pages perused before being replaced a few places lower once more to avoid feeling guilty about neglecting it.  For me this is one of those books.

The problem comes when you know that at some point you will be forced to read it to complete a list or challenge, for me it features in the 1001 books challenge but it frequently features in top hundred books and therefore cannot hope to be avoided forever if you are interested in seeing the top 100 books according to the BBC click here.  Despite having one of the most famous opening lines of any book ever

“Call me Ishmael.”
― Herman Melville, Moby-Dick; or, The Whale
Many who know those lines will have come to learn them from one of the film adaptations.  The actual story itself if taken from the synopsis sounds fascinating, so one may reasonably ask why the reticence to read the actual book?  Two things I think contribute firstly it is by no means a small book, not quite on par with Ulyssess yet still fat enough to be daunting, then the second and possibly more important deterrent is the language.
“There are certain queer times and occasions in this strange mixed affair we call life when a man takes this whole universe for avast practical joke, though the wit thereof he but dimly discerns, and more than suspects that the joke is at nobody’s expense but his own. However, nothing dispirits, and nothing seems worth while disputing. He bolts down all events, all creeds, and beliefs, and persuasions, all hard things visible and invisible, never mind how knobby; as an ostrich of potent digestion gobbles down bullets and gun flints. And as for small difficulties and worryings, prospects of sudden disaster, peril of life and limb; all these, and death itself, seem to him only sly, good-natured hits, and jolly punches in the side bestowed by the unseen and unaccountable old joker. That odd sort of wayward mood I am am speaking of, comes over a man only in some time of extreme tribulation; it comes in the very midst of his earnestness, so that what just before might have seemed to him a thing most momentous, now seems but a part of the general joke.”
― Herman Melville, Moby-Dick
Melville certainly is reflective of the time at which he wrote this, long overly complicated sentences and descriptions which conjure up the most obscure images many of which would appear to have little to actually do with the subject of the book.
But fear not if this features on a list you are working through there is another option!
Technically I know audio books are cheating however this is not an actual audiobook rather it was a project to encourage people to read the Classics.
In 2003 the BBC canvassed opinions and created The Big Read a list of the top 100 books voted for by the people as those everyone should read.  You can find the list here.  From there it was taken a step further by a group of people who loved the book and wanted to share it Peninsula Arts along with Plymouth University approach various people in the public eye, actors musicians, actors, even a politician or two and asked if they would be interested in creating something special.
Each of the chapters is read by a different person making a total of 134 guest stars willing to donate their time and energy to this project.  As you can imagine some are more pleasing to listen to than others and it can be a little distracting at times if the reader is not one you care for, luckily as most chapters are only ten to twenty minutes this is not as detrimental to the project as it could have been with one person reading it.
I am glad I found this and am counting listening to it as allowing me to tick the book off though I will not allot it stars based on someone else reading it to me.  The more I listened to the more convinced I am I would never have made it through the full book but listening to it is not a painful experience and in parts quite enjoyable.
I have to say overall unless you have a real thing for history, whaling and long-winded at times confusing prose then give this a miss, listen to the audio book or watch the film.  It is one of those ‘classics’ that I suspect would struggle to find a publisher today.  I am sorry to say I found it very disappointing and am glad I found a different way other than being forced to read it to tick it off my lists.
If you would like to listed to Moby Dick Big Read click here and it will take you to the website.
Book Reviews · Film/Dvd Reviews · Monday Musings · Reading Challenges

Book & DVD Review – The Hours By Michael Cunningham


Today I am cheating a little and doing a joint review as after reading the book again for my 1001 Books Challenge I pulled the film from the shelf and watched it again.


In some way by now it is hard to imagine that anyone would not have read this but just in case I really will try to be careful to not give too many spoilers.

The book tell the story of three separate days, each set years apart and in different places but intrinsically entwined.  On a day in 1920’s London Virginia Woolf begins writing a new novel while in 1990’s New York Clarissa Vaughan plans a party and somewhere in between Laura Brown plans her husbands birthday dinner and reads her copy of Mrs Dalloway.

Before I start I need to say I am really biased as this is my favourite example of Intertextuality ever.  The film for the main part stays faithful to the book with only minor deviations so I shall discuss the actually book and DVD simultaneously then just add a little regarding the casting of the film.

Cunningham has woven a complex time-line jumping from one character to the next within the space of one day between what at first glance seem to be three totally separate events and time-lines. Three women who you believe would and could never meet yet two of the three will have their lives significantly affected by the third a woman dead long before they ever learned her name.  The common phrase now in use of ‘six degrees of separation’ is demonstrated so well in this book how the very writing of a book can change the life of the person who picks it up and subsequently effect generations to come.  In a very real way Cunningham perpetuates this by in turn creating a book which will lead you to meet not only his characters but to also delve into the world and works of Woolf which in turn will lead you back to reread this book armed with the new knowledge you have gained.  I came to this book with a knowledge of Woolf and the novel she is portrayed writing which is of course Mrs Dalloway another book telling the story of one day from a woman’s life a day which Cunningham mirrors in the events of Clarissa Vaughan’s day.

This story really does lend itself perfectly to the visual component of film, while it can occasionally take a line or two to establish which character is taking prominence in the book in the film it is of course immediately obvious, not only by character but by the cinematography which is altered slightly to create a real period feel for the different era’s.  I was a little concerned regarding the casting of Nicole Kidman for Virginia Woolf but I can hand on heart say that my concerns were totally unfounded.  The make up was amazing to the point where it was almost impossible to recognise her which allowed her acting talent to shine through and allow the viewer to forget it was an actress they playing the author were watching.  Meryl Streep and Julianne Moore put in outstanding performances as the other two lead characters but for me Kidman steals the show.

The book and the film both deal with the main theme of relationships and the ways which people lose themselves by trying to live for others, issues are raised regarding the ravages of both physical and mental illnesses both upon the sufferer and those who care about them.  I don’t think I give anything away when I talk about the point where Virginia Woolf dies this is an actual historical fact so we are all aware I should imagine of how it occurred I have to say that both the book and film deal with this subject beautifully, tragic yet poignant I confess that a few tears were shed at this point not just for the terrible tragic event itself but for us, for what we lost because mental illness destroyed such an amazing woman at such a relatively young age.  One can only speculate upon the works of genius she may have created had the dark shadows not descended so frequently and severely.

If by some strange chance you have been in a coma for years or have just arrived from another planet here is the trailer for the film.

I give both book and film 5 out of 5 and would give 6 if I could

Book Reviews · Monday Musings · Reading Challenges

Book Review – The Reader By Bernhard Schlink

I first read this book a little while ago but after listening to the author answer questions on a BBC radio programme I picked it back up and re-read it.

For anyone who has not read the book or seen the subsquent film it is the story of a young man, barely fifteen at the beginning of the book, who meets by chance an older woman with whom he has a passionate affair.  Suddenly one day she simply disappears.

The story moves forward in time and the young man now married finds his self staring at his old lover in court.  She stands charged with horrific crimes during the Second World War, the book examines how this type of information affaects those who form bonds prior to the revelation and how they come to terms with the actions of loved ones.

I have to say I loved the book and would give it 4.5 stars out of 5 it drops half a mark as it is written from the young mans point of view, and does not really give enough of Hanna’s reasons to allow the reader to know whether her reasoning could have influenced his feelings more in any given respect.

But the main thing I loved about this book was that it made me stop and think not just about the holocaust but about human relationships in general.  We have all heard of the sins of the father being delivered upon the son, but what about the grandson and generations to follow?  Does what someones ancestor did in the past affect how you feel about someone?  How much does DNA now play in the nature vs nurture debate?

I look at those around me I love and care about and wonder what would need to be lurking in their past before it changed how I felt about them? While I would love to say that nothing would a small part of me still questions how I would feel if my other half had a mass murderer as a relation a couple of generations back or a child molester, though I know him would I start to wonder about whether something dark lurked in his genes?

I would love to hear your thoughts as always.

Book Reviews · Monday Musings · Reading Challenges

Book Review – The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Stories By Charlotte Perkins Gilman

I studied this book as part of my degree course and longed to come back to it as a collection of stories rather than an essay topic to be critically dissected.

Much has been written about The Yellow Wallpaper in relation to its place in feminist literature but as you are aware my reviews are not indepth critical reviews there are many out there who do that much better than I do. I want to talk about how the stories make me feel as a reader and I have to say I love these.

Each story deals with thought provoking subjects, some are of course by this time a little dated yet the actual emotions behind them are still as relevant today.  While most of us as modern women would not accept our husbands word as law we can see the manipulation in the title story that so many women sadly do still live with on a daily basis in abusive relationships. While the title story perhaps has deeper implications with its exploration of madness the theme that ties the collection together is its consideration of what it means to be female and the expectations that go with it.

In Three Thanksgivings we see the older woman with property whose children both seem to wish to care for her but whose motives are not what they can do for her rather what they could gain from her. In Making a Change the dynamics of the relationship between mother and wife along with expectation placed on the wife.  Again though in some aspects these stories are dated the underlying issues still exist I personally moan to my other halfs mum about how useless he is around the house thanks to her spoiling him.

Although they are certainly viewed from a feminist perspective these stories are more than that, they are questioning human interaction on the whole, how we interact, how we place our own expections on others without stopping to think what we are actually doing.

The whole book can be read in an afternoon but personally I would suggest reading one story at a time and taking a little time to consider its lessons before starting the next.  Thse stories really are thought provoking and deserve the space for those thoughts to be considered.

Star rating 4 out of 5 as I did feel a couple of the stories were less detailed than the title story.

Mysteries Of Udolpho · Reading Challenges · Tuesday Reflections

Mysteries Of Udolpho Volume 1 Chapters I, II & III

When I accepted MsKatykins offer of having a read along buddy for this book I was relieved, it is quite a daunting book (especially the version I have small print and bible paper) but one I really want to read.

This will not be an in-depth analysis of the work chapter by chapter but instead a hopefully light-hearted banter about our impressions as we read along and see whether we are left sharing opinions or whether each of us reads differently into this novel that inspired Austen’s Northanger Abbey.

Have to say the first pages reminded me why I have picked this up and placed it back on the TBR pile so many times.  The picaresque features heavily in gothic literature and this is no exception.  To us as modern readers the seemingly over detailed descriptions can be rather off-putting but I have to be fair after all we need only google a place-name to see images of it in all its glory for the regency reader only those rich enough to take the grand tours would have any idea what the Pyrenees and other areas looked like.

I guess for the first post the thing to contemplate are the characters as we are introduced to them so I will give you my first impressions…

Monsieur St. Aubert – Our would be heroines father (after all we haven’t met her yet she might not be a heroine in our eyes time will tell) and I rather disliked him after about three lines of description, he comes across as a wimp, disillusioned by the fact other men are not all kind and interested in the finer things such as literature and music he decides to uproot his family and retire to live the pastoral life.  Now I know things were different back then but even I know that keeping a young girl isolated is going to have her yearning for adventure and getting her naive little self in trouble.

Emily – Our would be heroine or as seems more likely the damsel in distress, in the first encounters I have to say she is not particularly likeable.  Due to her secluded life she is self-absorbed and slightly vain.  She is of course well versed in such accomplishments fitting a young lady she is lacking in worldly experience which you know means she is heading for adventure.

The first few chapters are hard going, the death of Emily’s mother does give an insight into the way her father thinks she should behave, no showing emotion and putting on an air of acceptance she cannot feel, and one almost does feel sorry for her in this,

The other characters we meet in these opening chapters do not really leave any lasting impressions at this point although we know some of them will prove to have pivotal roles as the story progresses.

It is not easy going, the style of writing favoured by gothic authors is very description heavy by todays standards, I look forward to seeing what MsKatykins thinks to the next few chapters and whether she agrees with my opinions of the beginning.